Be your own detective and carefully document everything relevant about your financial, marital and parenting life. You and your Oregon divorce attorney will need this information later, and having it collected and organized early helps you be informed and in control of the situation.
- Get a notebook, filing system or protected email account to document your divorce. You might consider separate folders or tabs for financial information, things to discuss with your Oregon divorce attorney, children’s resources, appointments, a to-do list and legal advice.
- Know your credit history — and your spouse’s. Obtain credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies and review them for accuracy.
- Copy or scan relevant documents and store in a safe place outside your home.
- Know where your passport is (and your children’s passports as well).
- List the locations (and where the keys are kept) for your files, safe-deposit boxes and off-site storage units.
- Describe your parenting life as if to a stranger. How many hours a day do you and your spouse each see your children? Who makes their meals, brings them to school and performs the bedtime routine? Has your spouse ever cared for your children alone for more than a day or two? Have you? Does your spouse know the names of your children’s teachers, coaches, daycare providers and doctors? Do you? Do your children have any special needs or disabilities? Who attends their therapies? Who attends parent-teacher conferences and sports practices? Document this information for your records.
- List any past occurrences of possible domestic violence, whether to you or your children. Obtain any police or doctors’ reports. Keep a record of anything abusive or neglectful going forward.
- List your human resources. Some of these people, such as your tax professional or children’s teacher, might have useful information for your divorce. Others, such as your friends, family members, clergy, or counselor, might simply provide emotional support.
- Keep track of any significant changes in your family’s spending, income or account balances.
Understand Your Finances
The more you can discover now about your family’s finances, the more you will likely save in time, attorney fees and possible lost opportunities during your divorce in Oregon. Using your organizational system from the previous section, learn everything you can about your money. Photocopy or scan all relevant documents. Be cautious about communicating with your tax professional or stockbroker at this point, as he or she can also communicate with your spouse and may inadvertently let slip your preparations for divorce.
- KNOW YOUR DEBTS. Especially after reviewing your credit reports, list your own debts, your spouse’s, and those you own jointly. Are there any close to being paid off? Copy relevant documents, including your mortgage papers and credit cards.
- KNOW YOUR ASSETS. List banks, stockbrokers and other places where you or your spouse have accounts, with account numbers and approximate values. Include any money saved in your children’s names, such as trust or college accounts. List retirement accounts. List all real property, with values. List vehicles, with values. List significant personal property, such as art or jewelry, and their values. Make your best guess as to whether each asset is owned by both or only one of you. Copy your latest account statements and check registers. Inventory your safe deposit boxes and offsite storage lockers.
- KNOW YOUR FUTURE ASSETS. Do you or your spouse own stock options? When do they vest? What is their strike price? Are either of you anticipating an inheritance or trust account payment? Copy your own and your spouse’s annual social security estimate, or obtain new ones from your local social security office.
- KNOW YOUR INCOME. What do you earn as salary, commissions, bonuses and deferred compensation? What does your spouse earn? If one of you is unemployed or underemployed, what is your best guess as to their potential earnings? Do either of you need school or training to improve or start your career? If either of you are self-employed, what are some accounting documents that can help determine the amount you earn and your business expenses?
- KNOW YOUR INSURANCE. Copy your health, life, automobile and homeowner’s policies.
- KNOW YOUR TAXES. Copy your last few years’ tax returns, including schedules and supporting documents.
- KNOW YOUR VITAL STATISTICS. Copy your marriage license, social security cards, birth certificates and passports, if any. Copy your children’s social security cards, birth certificates and passports, if any.
- KNOW YOUR CURRENT HOUSEHOLD BUDGET. How much do you really spend? Include annual or quarterly expenses as well as monthly ones.
- ESTIMATE YOUR FUTURE HOUSEHOLD BUDGET. What is the minimum you need to support yourself and your children?
Consult an Oregon Divorce Attorney
After or while you organize your information, consult a qualified Oregon divorce attorney.
WHAT DO I DO AT AN INITIAL CONSULTATION?
Schedule an introductory appointment with the Oregon divorce attorney and bring the information you have gathered so far. Include a list of your questions and a short (one-page) summary of your situation:
- Your name and spouse’s name;
- Your ages;
- How long you have been married;
- Whether you have ever been separated from your spouse, and whether there are separation or prenuptial agreements;
- Your profession and income, and your spouse’s (if one of you doesn’t work, list when he or she last worked and his/her income then);
- Whether you have children, their ages and whether you or your spouse are pregnant now (include any stepchildren);
- Whether you or your spouse are engaged in extramarital affairs, especially if you have children (this is irrelevant to whether you can get divorced but may affect how a court allocates custody or parenting time);
- Whether either of you are in the military; and
- Whether there has been any domestic violence.
The divorce attorney will likely tell you about his or her experience with cases like yours in Oregon. She or he will give you some thoughts about the problematic or simple areas of your case, advise you about the general process of divorce, and suggest what first steps will help you best achieve your goals.
The attorney may provide a rough estimate for how long your Oregon divorce will take, how much it will cost, and how to begin working together. During and after your consultation, take notes on how you liked the Oregon divorce attorney and whether you understand the advice the attorney gave you.
CAN I INTERVIEW SEVERAL OREGON DIVORCE ATTORNEYS?
Yes. You don’t need to hire the first Oregon divorce attorney you consult. Interview a second or third if you need to, to find someone you trust and respect. Note that each attorney you consult is thereby forbidden from representing your spouse.
DOES DIVORCE HAVE TO MEAN A FIGHT?
Consider how aggressive your spouse — and you — are likely to be in divorce litigation. Can you afford (in emotions, time and money) an all-out court battle? Then again, will protecting your assets and/or children require a substantial struggle? Would you or your spouse consider mediation, collaborative or cooperative divorce (described in Part One of this guide)? Advise your Oregon divorce attorney of these issues.
CAN I DIVORCE WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY IN OREGON?
You may think that filing for divorce without a qualified Oregon divorce attorney will save you money, but that is very unlikely. A divorce attorney can help protect assets and rights you might not know you have. Your attorney can also help you plan for future contingencies, such as remarriage. For more information, see “Why There Is No Such Thing as a Free Divorce” in Part One of this guide.
If you are considering divorce in Oregon, the attorneys at McKinley Irvin Portland can help you no matter how complicated your case may be or how difficult your situation may seem. With over 20 years in family law practice, McKinley Irvin’s experienced, compassionate and dedicated Oregon divorce attorneys know how to protect your interests and help you through your divorce. We will explain your rights and options within the law so you can make the best choices for you and your family.